Inquiry deems Crown not suitable to hold Sydney casino licence
Crown Resorts has been deemed not suitable to hold the licence for its soon-to-be-opened casino in inner Sydney.
The ABC reports that the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has been examining the conduct of Crown in its current casinos in Melbourne and Perth, including its international VIP gaming operations.
In his closing submissions, counsel assisting Adam Bell SC told the inquiry he believed Crown was not suitable to hold the licence for the new Barangaroo premises.
“In summary, we submit that the evidence presented to this inquiry demonstrates that the licensee is not a suitable person to continue to give effect to the licence and that Crown Resorts is not a suitable person to be a close associate of the licensee,” he said.
The inquiry has raised serious allegations that the company ignored warning signs of money laundering within its casinos, partnered with junket operators despite their links to organised crime and ignored the safety of their staff in China, who were technically working illegally.
Mr Bell highlighted the arrest of the employees in China four years ago as a significant factor in the company’s failures.
Nineteen employees were arrested and charged for promoting gambling to source VIPs for its high-roller business, 16 who were eventually imprisoned in a Chinese prison.
Evidence was put to the inquiry showing Crown should have been aware of the risk to staff after a widely publicised crackdown on such operations in China and the fact staff had raised concern with senior staff prior to their arrests.
Mr Bell said the result was “ultimately harmful” to the public interest and it showed the reporting lines within the company were “compromised”.
“We submit that the facts and circumstances which culminated in those arrests are directly relevant to the present suitability to the licensee for at least the following reasons,” he said.
“Secondly, the evidence in relation to the China arrests provides an indication into how Crown Resorts and its leaders may respond to dynamic and changing circumstances that are inherent within its business.
“This is underscored by the current board’s strong public defence of Crown Resorts’ conduct in this regard in a manner, which it has submitted, failed to have due regard of the facts and circumstances which led to the arrests.
“It’s submitted that the culture within Crown Resorts exposed its staff to risk and led to the failure to adequately respond in the face of escalating risk.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would seek “urgent and immediate” advice on the matter.
“I think, at the end of the day, we need to do what’s in the best interest of the citizens of our state,” she said.
Victorian regulator slow to produce Crown report
Crown Resorts staff who were arrested and imprisoned in China for illegally promoting gambling activities weren’t interviewed by Victoria’s gambling regulator until years after the watchdog launched an investigation into their arrests.
The Guardian reported in early November that the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation’s annual report showed the progress the investigation had made, which is not yet complete, despite starting in 2017.
It is likely to further alarm critics of the regulator, who have derided it as a “toothless tiger” that is captured by Crown and “worse than useless.”
VCGLR staff only attempted to interview Crown staff who were arrested in China after serious allegations, including that organised crime was involved in junkets that bring high rollers to the group’s casinos, were aired by Nine Entertainment outlets in July 2019.
The regulator is responsible for oversight of Crown’s biggest casino, which an inquiry in NSW has heard included one junket, Suncity, allegedly linked to organised crime gangs.
Nineteen Crown staff were arrested by Chinese authorities i n2016 and subsequently convicted of illegally promoting gambling.
One of the Crown employees, Jenny Jiang, was heavily featured on Nine’s TV current affairs show, 60 mInutes, and in the media groups’ newspaper coverage.